Bill to change size, election policies of Board of Trustees gets past committee

Editors note: This article was edited at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday.

SPRINGFIELD—Legislation that would add three faculty members to the University’s Board of Trustees and require all of its members to be elected passed Wednesday through the Higher Education Committee in the Illinois House of Representatives.

The legislation was amended Wednesday and combined with two other bills that aimed to create a new board configuration. It passed as amended, 5 to 1, with one committee member absent during the vote.

While the nine members on the Board of Trustees are currently appointed by the governor, the bill aims to create an election-based membership for a board that would be composed of 15 voting trustees. Fifteen trustees would be able to cast legally binding votes. Seven of the 15 trustees would be elected by Illinois voters; the University of Illinois Alumni Association would select six representatives under the amended bill. The final two votes would be distributed among three students and three faculty members; one member of each group would have a vote.

Some questioned the composition of the board after last summer’s admissions issue, in which it was discovered that the University had given preferential treatment to applicants with powerful personal connections. Seven of the nine trustees eventually stepped down from the board due to the scandal. However, Rep. David Reis, R-108 and chief sponsor of the bill, said he has been working on legislation with one of the other bill’s chief sponsors, Rep. Chapin Rose, R-110, for the past three years.

Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-103, was the chief sponsor of the third bill, which proposed adding three faculty members to the board who would each get a legally binding vote. In the amended bill discussed on Wednesday, however, only one of the three faculty members receives such a vote.

Jakobsson and Rose shared a modest fist jab after Rose was told the bill had passed. Still, Jakobsson said the bill is at an early stage and must pass through some obstacles before it can even move on to the Illinois Senate.

“I think they’ve still got some work to do in the House to get it passed,” she said after the hearing.

If passed, the legislation would go into effect immediately after becoming a law, but the seven elected members would not be voted on until 2012.